The Wolves might be one of the most athletically gifted 8 seeds in NBA playoff history, but can they put it all together and challenge the 65-win Houston Rockets?
Game 1 starts at 8 p.m. Sunday on TNT, and while the Wolves are trying to make a name for themselves for the first time in nearly 14 years, the Rockets are trying to shake the stigma of being playoff chokers.
Specifically, we're talking about the likely MVP, James Harden, and future Hall of Fame point guard, Chris Paul.
Harden's numbers in the playoffs with Houston are sick: 27.3 points, 7.1 assists, and 5.6 rebounds. But his Houston teams have been bounced in the first round three times since 2013, and last year in the Western Conference semifinals he laid one of the all-time playoff eggs.
It was Game 6 in Houston against the Spurs, who were without Kawhi Leonard, who was out with an ankle injury. Harden might've been better off not showing up. He finished with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting with 6 turnovers and 6 fouls, and never appeared interested in being there.
Fox Sports' Dieter Kurtenbach wrote that it was the kind of performance that leaves a "stink that lingers."
Paul, 32, has never reached the conference finals in his illustrious career. Nine trips to the playoffs, none of them going past the second round.
History suggests Harden and Paul are bound to be bounced, but this is their first year playing together and even through growing pains they've led the Rockets on ridiculous winning streaks of 14, 17 and 11 games this season – and they cut through Minnesota like a hot knife through butter in four regular season games.
One thing the Wolves have going for them on Sunday is that Rockets 3-point specialist Ryan Anderson is 50-50 to play with an injury, and lockdown defender Luc Mbah a Moute is already ruled out.
Anderson was a quiet killer against the Wolves during the regular season, connecting on 12 threes in the four games (all of them in the first three meetings).